How to Stay Connected with Parents on Tour.
Laura is a 7th grade World History teacher who first traveled with EF to Italy along with 52 middle schoolers, parents, and grandparents. Laura believes students who travel internationally gain a broader world perspective which develops tolerance, open-mindedness, understanding, and love for people everywhere. She wants her students’ to navigate our world with confidence!
As with many experiences, I learned a lot by trial and error on my first EF tour – using social media was no exception. While emailing parents is a must, a Facebook group can be a great way to share information and build community. Here are a few tips on how to make your first group page successful.
What’s in a name? My page is called “ iTravel with Mrs. Smith.” By the end of our trip, everyone’s calling it the “iTravel page.” Travelers share fun pictures or events in the group, which allows everyone to join in and feel a part of the travel experience. Additionally, I brand myself and my page by putting this title on our trip t-shirts.
Make the page private and closed. This way you can curate appropriate members and accept or deny anyone requesting to join. Start by including your travelers and their family members, then add additional people as you desire. Most students today prefer Instagram and Snapchat to Facebook, so I don’t have many students on my page – but it’s a great resource for parents at home!
Create spotlights posts before you travel. Your Facebook group can be a preparation resource! I occasionally post on topics such as travel tips, event reminders, required documents, due dates, and suggestions for where to obtain foreign currency. I even created a video on how to pack in a carry-on for a nine-day trip. My travelers didn’t believe it could be done until they saw it with their own eyes. In addition, I post several blog posts and articles from EF, as well as videos on places we’re traveling. This keeps excitement high and ensures your travelers are fully prepared for the trip.
Post arrival and departure information. I post pictures of our group in the airport before takeoff. I once had a parent at home post our flight route so others could follow us while in the air. Other parents thanked him in the comments, and our little community began developing at home as well as on the tour. I usually post a short video from the air of all of the travelers snuggled into their seats. This gives parents an immediate sense of security and trust that I will be connecting with them throughout the trip. Once we arrive, I take a photo of the entire group at our first city to let everyone back home know we’ve arrived safely. Later, I take pictures of each group as they set off on free time. This helps me to keep a record of who’s in each group as they leave, while also ensuring everyone is featured at least once on my Facebook group page.
Forget the pictures of famous places. Your travelers will come home with hundreds of pictures of monuments and sites that they will be able to share with family and friends. Instead of adding to the norm, focus on special relational moments when kids are making friends or family members are bonding. One of my favorite pictures I’ve taken was of two siblings walking down a beautiful street in Rome chatting. Another was of a grandfather pointing out Sicily, where their family is from, on a tapestry on the way to the Sistine Chapel.
Encourage travelers to post their photos and experiences on the page. This gives a feeling of authenticity to your page that is great for parents to see. It also creates a resource for future travelers who may want to know more about the tour experience.
Post LIVE videos. I promise it’s not as scary as you think it will be, and parents love it! You can give them an inside look at what the trip is like, live from the streets of Florence or the jungles of Costa Rica. As I begin to stream and see which parents have hopped on, I find their child so that they can engage with them in real time. One mother realized what a great time she was missing with her daughter and decided to sign up for my next trip! It’s this kind of connection with family that makes social media something to be excited about, not fear!
Using a group page turned out to be more valuable than I ever anticipated. As time goes on, it is my hope that my page will become a time capsule of memories that all of my travelers can share with family and friends– and a legacy that lives on at my school.